Visionaries

I’m on the Breedlove Odyssey tour with Mos Def, Pharoahe Monch, and Jean Grae, and it feels so good. I’m having Lyricist Lounge déja vu every night. I am proud to be a part of a community of hard working artists. We are competitive, so every night the show becomes a more powerful animal. K’Naan and Amir Sulaman are the lesser known artists on the tour, but they too add fuel to this raging creative fire. Everyone in this crew is an individual. In a lot of rap crews, the way one artist raps, dresses and carries himself is passed down like second hand clothes to others. This makes the people only marginally interested and the marquee artist has to carry the label 4th quarter. I would never rap or dress like Mos, Pharoahe, Common, Rik and definitely not Jean! We are all visionaries and it comes across in personal style. While this is positive, the downside is that it makes it harder to work together. When your vision is strong and clear, you don’t want someone else’s vision to cloud yours. You respect other artists, but you spend a lot of time creating your own space for your “vision”. Egos go hand and hand with vision. Notice that we are all solo, except for Rik, but he handles the MC responsibilities for his group solely. These other crews have developed resources by falling back, wearing the uniform, being company men or soldiers for one cause. In my crew, there are six causes, 8 managers, 5 imprints, 12 different kinds of merch, etc. I believe we would be stronger if there was a more united front. Touring is hard sometimes because with two acts, somebody gotta take a loss and no one wants to. We all work hard and we all want to be paid what we’re worth, not what someones idea of our worth is. Because we are visionaries, no one has to wait. If Mos couldn’t afford to bring me on tour, I could book my own tour very easily. In these other crews, if the marquee artist ain’t gigging, nobody is working. How do we capitalize on the fact that we have these grandiose visions that no one wants to compromise? I think it starts with the artists, and then the management and record company will follow suit. Maybe it’s because I started in the groups but I am excited about forming relationships with artists. We should organize to become more efficient. The talent pool I’m swimming in is deeper than what anybody in this business is dealing with. We are the artistic standard whether that translates into dollars or not. Because accolades do not mean money in hand, we cannot afford to rest on our laurels and become cultural snobs, getting mad at niggas getting paid off Laffy Taffy. We must integrate our hustle. The Roots have a great tour hustle and have created Motive and Okayplayer to continue to develop artists and relationships with the fans. They have done a great job. Spitkicker has been a little harder because there is not as much focus. I’m praying that with my Blacksmith situation we can connect these entities even better. I am literally the bridge right now. I am an independent underground artist with Spitkicker and Okayplayer. If I don’t take my responsibility seriously, who will? The art is there. The art is so good, that even when we move in a haphazard fashion, the fans find the music and cherish it. We don’t do a good job of marketing ourselves, and the labels we’ve been signed to have been so caught up in chasing radio hits that to figure out how to creatively market an artist who may not have one becomes work they are not willing to do. I mean, who wants to work harder, especially is there’s a formula ready? I’ve always been worried that paying too much attention to business will take away from the creative side, but I have no choice now. I am also so comfortable in my creative skin that I will not allow anything to take away from it. Handling business properly is the only way to be creative for me now. Well at least for me to be creative and make something available commercially. I’ll be the same MC culturally and socially. My vision of manhood is getting bigger tho.

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